KISS - Animalize (1984) Mar 8, 2010 23:43:49 GMT -5
Post by Erik Rupp on Mar 8, 2010 23:43:49 GMT -5
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...
In 1983 the perception of KISS went from has-beens in the first half of the year to a resurgent force in the last 3 months of the year. Their Lick It Up album was their first Gold album in 3 years, and it spawned an FM radio hit in the title track. All it took for the change of perception was for the band to drop the make-up in September of that year.
And in September of 1984 KISS capitalized on their resurgent status with Animalize, an album that saw the band at the peak of their 80's success.
Even so, the, "Best of times," was also the worst of times in some ways. Most of those ways can be tied directly to Gene Simmons, who had just been seduced by Hollywood, as he landed a starring role in the Michael Crichton directed thriller, Runaway. Gene rushed through his songwriting for the Animalize, and then left the recording sessions early to film his part of the movie. His songs sounded rushed, and in need of some more work on the writing side. Clearly, the, "Worst of times," when it came to his contributions to the band.
On the other hand, Paul Stanley's material on Animalize was sharp. Solid riffs, great vocal melodies, and some first rate arrangements putting the two together made for, "The best of times," when it came to Paul's work in the 80's. Or at least songs that were the equal of his best work in that decade.
And none of those songs were stronger than the 1-2 punch album openers of, "I've Had Enough (Into the Fire)," and, "Heaven's On Fire." The songs could hardly be more dissimilar (within the Metal Rock context). "I've Had Enough," was an uptempo, modern Heavy Metal song with some fantastic riffing and some of Paul's best vocal melodies of the decade (not to mention and amazing vocal performance), while, "Heaven's On Fire," was a catchy, but simple, mid-tempo stomper with a great funky beat. "Heaven's On Fire," was the big FM radio hit from Animalize, and rightly so. It recaptured the spirit of some of KISS' best work from the 70's, if not the same style. It was (and still is) amazingly catchy and remains one of the band's best singles.
Gene Simmons' material, on the other hand, starts off with the regrettably titled, "Burn Bitch Burn." Lyrically, this one isn't any better than you'd expect given the song's title, and it may actually be worse. The lyrics were likely intended to be tongue-in-cheek, but they ended up sounding like a 14 year old's idea of humor. This is even more regrettable when considering that the central riff of the song is really quite good. If a real producer had been working on the album his lyrics might have been rejected outright (Paul handled most of the production, while Gene had a hand in the parts that he was involved in). With some decent lyrics this could have been a highlight of the album. Instead, it's a cringe-worthy song.
Gene's other songs on the album range from the painfully mediocre, "Lonely Is The Hunter," to the above average, "While The City Sleeps," to the uninspired (and uninspiring), "Murder In High Heels." Had the lyrics to, "Burn Bitch Burn," been changed, and had, "Murder In High Heels," been replaced with something like, "It's My Life," (which was a great song that dated back to 1983 or earlier), Animalize might have been one of KISS' best albums ever.
Paul Stanley held up his end of the deal. "Get All You Can Take," is a very good mid-tempo song, while, "Under The Gun," is a fast, frantic song with a riff supplied by drummer Eric Carr (whose drumming and background vocals help give the album a really BIG sound). Paul's final contribution to the album is the very well developed, "Thrills In The Night," which is extremely solid melodically, and has a great sense of dynamics. What it misses is a snare drum in the chorus. When they played it live, Eric used the snare drum in the chorus, but on Animalize he's hitting a tom instead. It sounds like something's missing. It's a minor quibble, but it is a distraction from what is otherwise a great song.
The late Mark St. John's brief tenure in KISS as lead guitarist consists of this album and a handful of live dates in which he played a few songs (and not full sets). St. John was clearly a very gifted musician, but his style did not fit KISS at all. First off, his tone on Animalize was very glassy and the individual notes were not very clear (thus hard to hear). Second, what he was playing was of the, "Angry bee," variety of 1980's Heavy Metal lead playing. While that style fit on a couple of the songs ("I've Had Enough," and, "Under The Gun,"), it just isn't a good fit with the rest.
Paul Stanley did a good job on the album production, particularly on the audio side as the guitar and bass tones are excellent, and the mix is very good. The drum sounds on Animalize are also among the best ever on a KISS album.
So, while it may have been the worst of times for Gene Simmons' contributions, Paul Stanley's excellent work on Animalize helped make the 1984/85 era among the best of times for KISS during the 80's.